With winter here, so is the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections. Vitamin D, our sunshine buddy, is crucial for good health, found in sunlight, oily fish, mushrooms, and fortified dairy alternatives. The catch? In winter, when we need it most, many of us aren't getting enough. So how to get vitamin D in winter? Let's dive in.
What is vitamin D?
The sunshine vitamin, a.k.a vitamin D, is pretty cool because, despite being known as a vitamin, it's considered a hormone now. Your body works some magic to make it happen.
When your skin hangs out in the sun and soaks up those ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, cholesterol in your skin gets transformed into cholecalciferol (D3) and ergocalciferol (D2). These little guys hitch a ride in your bloodstream to the liver, where they go through a makeover to become calcidiol. Then, off they go to the kidneys, where they transform into the active superhero hormone, calcitriol. Nature's way of giving you a boost.
Why do we need vitamin D in the winter?
Soaking up some sun for your daily dose of vitamin D is fantastic. But let's be real—our modern lifestyles, especially during the winter season, can make that a bit challenging. Thankfully, there's another trick up your sleeve: staying active can also help your body produce that crucial vitamin D.
And hey, if catching rays or being active isn't in the cards, don't sweat it. Consider reaching for some supplements to give your vitamin D levels a boost. Since recommended amounts can be a tad confusing, it's always a good call to have a chat with a healthcare pro. They can guide you on the right dosage and help you keep an eye on those levels.
Back in the day, doctors used to think vitamin D was all about keeping our bones in check, preventing rickets in kids and osteoporosis in adults. But guess what? In the rad 1980s, scientists stumbled upon something awesome—our immune cells are big fans of vitamin D.
Turns out, vitamin D isn't just a bone hero. It's like the VIP of our gastrointestinal (GI) tract health. Having higher levels of vitamin D is like having a super shield against things like inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease and helps ward off pesky gut and lung infections in both animals and humans.
Vitamin D plays a matchmaker for the microbes in our gut, keeping them healthy and spreading good vibes. By boosting the number and variety of these tiny friends, vitamin D throws a party that helps dial down inflammation throughout the entire body. So low vitamin D levels are associated with inflammatory bowel disease in us humans. Let's keep those levels up and the gut microbes happy with vitamin D.
How can we get vitamin D for winter?
When the cold weather has you in full bundle-up mode, it might sound wild, but showing a bit of skin can do wonders for your vitamin D levels. Seize those chances—whether it's an unexpectedly warm day or a weekend getaway to a sunnier spot, let your skin soak up those rays responsibly. But when the sun's playing hide-and-seek, fear not. Turn to some vitamin D in foods as a tasty winter pick-me-up for your body.
Eat fatty or oily fish.
If you're all about those ocean delights, you're in luck because oily fish is one of the best foods for dishing out vitamin D. Think sockeye salmon, mackerel, flounder, sole, swordfish, whitefish, sturgeon, and rainbow trout, to name a few.
A palm-sized serving of these fish can give you a solid 75% to 100% of your daily vitamin D needs. You'll also score some omega-3 fatty acids in the mix, those superheroes that our bodies love for fighting inflammation.
You can also go for budget-friendly options, like canned light tuna and sardines. They're versatile, shelf-stable, and a breeze to whip up. Perfect for quick snacks or easy-peasy lunches. Dive into those ocean flavors and enjoy the goodness.
Have some safe-to-eat mushrooms.
Even though mushrooms are more like fungi than plants, they're like the rock stars of non-animal vitamin D sources.
The real vitamin D champs are wild mushrooms and the ones that have basked in some UV light. Just one cup of raw UV-exposed mushrooms is all it takes to meet or even exceed your daily vitamin D needs.
So next time you're munching away, consider adding some brown cremini, portabella, maitake, or white button mushrooms to the mix. Go for the ones that have caught a bit of sunlight, and you've got yourself a tasty, non-animal source of vitamin D.
Get a dose of cod liver oil.
Good ol' cod liver oil packs a punch with a whopping 1300 IU of vitamin D per tablespoon, and it throws in some bonus goodies like antioxidant vitamin A and omega-3s.
You can snag cod liver oil in liquid form or go for the flavored gel capsules if you're not too keen on the taste. Just a heads up, though—cod liver oil isn't the same as your regular omega-3 fish oil supplements. So if it's that extra boost of vitamin D you're after, make sure you're reaching for the right bottle.
Add vitamin D-fortified foods to your diet.
Boosting your vitamin D is a breeze with some clever grocery shopping. Check out the fortified gang, both plant-based and animal goodies. Think orange juice, milk, yogurt, and non-dairy milk alternatives—they get a vitamin D upgrade during a special fortification process. Make sure to read the nutrition label on such items.
For a quick vitamin D and protein fix, whip up a couple of eggs. They're not just a protein powerhouse. They've got a decent dose of vitamin D, too.
Since vitamin D is a fan of fat, team up your sources with some avocado, butter, or plant-based oil. The fat helps your body absorb the goodness. So let's make those meals both delicious and nutritious.
Take vitamin D supplements only when prescribed by a doctor.
Depending on where you call home and how you roll in life, you might be in the vitamin D deficiency danger zone.
A daily supplement for certain people who might miss out on enough vitamin D may be needed. This crew includes older adults who hang indoors a lot, those with darker skin tones, expecting and breastfeeding moms, and individuals dealing with conditions like liver disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, or Crohn's disease.
If your wardrobe tends to cover most of your skin outdoors, you might not be catching enough sun for your vitamin D production. Time to think about adding a supplement to your routine with doctor's advice, of course.
Keep Your Vitamin D Game Strong
Vitamin D is like a shining star in your immune system and keeps your brain, heart, and bones in tip-top shape. But since winter sun can be a bit elusive, make friends with foods like fortified goodies, oily fish, and mushrooms to keep that vitamin D game strong. Remember to do mindful eating and stay physically active through exercise, especially in winter.